COVID-19 forces about 60% to stay home next week

Nearly+eight+months+after+the+start+of+the+coronavirus+pandemic+and+the+shuttering+of+classrooms%2C+the+Fullerton+Joint+Union+High+School+District+will+reopen+on+Nov.+2.+

Image used with permission from Prachati.

Nearly eight months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the shuttering of classrooms, the Fullerton Joint Union High School District will reopen on Nov. 2.

Yeihn Lee

When Sunny Hills moved to a distance learning form of education in March, Fullerton only had six positive coronavirus cases, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency [OCHCA]. 

When the 2020-2021 school year started Aug. 11, that number increased to 2,100.

As the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] transitions Nov. 2 to a hybrid model of learning, COVID-19 positive cases have yet to decline. As of Oct. 30, the city has a reported 2,879 positive cases and 97 deaths, according to the OCHCA.

Those statistics are the main reason nearly 60% of Sunny Hills students — 1,401 of 2,395 total enrolled — with their parents’ approval have opted to stay home instead of returning to campus next week.

(For hybrid learning, the FJUHSD has created two groups, also known as “cohorts,” with “Cohort A” coming to campus for classroom instruction on Mondays and Thursdays and “Cohort B” attending classes Tuesdays and Fridays. The last group, “Cohort C,” stays home for instruction as in the past with distance learning but will have the same teachers as students in the other cohorts. Everyone stays home for distance learning on Wednesdays. Students through their parents can switch from Cohort A/B to C or vice versa at any time.)

“I originally chose [Cohort] A/B because I learn better in a classroom,” junior Brandon Parra said. “But I switched to [Cohort] C about two weeks into school because of the COVID-19 cases.”

Social science teacher Greg Abbott has also noticed a steady migration of students from Cohort A/B to C. As of Oct. 22 in his first period Advanced Placement U.S. History class, for example, Abbott said only eight students total are in either cohorts A or B, while the rest — 28 students — will continue with distance learning.

“We understand that there is still a lot of fear out there, so the fact that [district officials]  are giving parents and students the option [to stay home] is always a good idea,” he said. 

The fact that Orange County had reported its first case of a teenager dying from COVID-19 doesn’t help, either. According to an Orange County Register article, an Aug. 19 Health Care Agency news release stated a teenage girl under 18 died “with significant underlying medical conditions.” 

No other information was provided to the media.

“[The death] makes me want to be more cautious about going out and seeing people,” said sophomore Sydney Park, who asked her parents to switch her back to Cohort C about two weeks after school started. “At the time, I thought it was dying down a little bit so I thought it would be safe to go back, but after seeing other schools and other students’ experiences, it looks unsafe, and I would rather do school at home.”

No matter how many students end up showing up next week, principal Allen Whitten said students, parents and teachers should know that Sunny Hills will follow all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

“I believe our students are going to be great about staying safe, keeping their masks on, pre-screening before coming to school, using six feet of distancing at school and following all of our safety guidelines,” Whitten said.